Monday, May 13, 2024

My 13th year sales

When I set out to write this post, I was going to use the word "gangbusters" to describe how this theater season went for me. But then I went back to look at what I wrote last year and realized I'd used that same word then.

So what word is stronger than gangbusters? Stellar? Dynamite? Fantabulous? Nifty?

Okay, so maybe my favorite thesaurus app throws in a few clunkers. The point is you can pick any one of those words and they wouldn't do justice to how successful this year was for me. Here are just three of the highlights.

I had a total of 420 productions, 16% more than my previous record of 362, set all the way back in that pre-COVID year of 2019. 

My royalties were an impressive 44% higher than my previous record, which was set just last year and which I'm definitely not getting to share here (sorry!).

I also added three new amazing countries to my life list, making a grand total of 24 (still no South America though!).

The top five

The Enchanted Bookshop was my best-selling play for the seventh year in a row, with a whopping 109 productions. That's the most it's had since 2020 (actually, the 2019-2020 season, with the tail end of that season being clipped due to COVID-related theater closures). While most of my plays drop 50% or more within three years, this play has shown incredible staying power. In fact, its production count has dropped only 30% in five years and had held pretty steady the last two years. Besides that, the play got me my 22nd and 23rd countries this year with productions in Abuja, Nigeria and Jakarta, Indonesia. And did I mentioned it already has 43 productions booked for next year? Wowzuh!

It Happened on Route 66 was my second best-selling play with 57 productions, this being its first full year of relief. And that's a whole story in itself. For years after writing The Enchanted Bookshop, I've been trying to replicate its success, but my subsequent eight plays received only a small fraction of that play's productions. Then along came this love letter to the Mother Road, proving that a completely different story--if it's the right story--can get halfway there.

If the success of It Happened on Route 66 was a pleasant surprise, the numbers for It's a Madhouse! were an even bigger surprise. This crazy treasure hunt farce got an impressive 41 productions this year (again its first full year), making it my third-place play. But if you combine that number with the 33 productions received by Madhouse!--its one-act version and my fourth-place play--you get a total of 74 productions--almost Enchanted Bookshop levels. And the royalties for this one-two punch were 82% of the those that my top-earning play received.

Two new hit plays in one year? I'll take it.

With 24 productions, fifth place goes to my coffee shop comedy, Whole Latte Love. This was the play's first full-year as well, but it was down a bit from the 28 productions it got the year before, mostly because that year was practically a full year. It's too early to know for sure, but I expect that this love-filled play will continue to pull healthy numbers over the next few years.

But wait, there's more

Further down the list, I have to give a shout-out to my restaurant farce Million Dollar Meatballs, which has been going strong for nine years now. And by strong, I mean it has gotten 20 or more productions every year except for the two COVID-affected years. As Adam Sandler would say, not too shabby.

I was kind of blown away by this one, but An Enchanted Bookshop Christmas is defying the play-aging odds. This was its fourth year of publication and it somehow managed to earn more royalties this year than it did in any of its previous three years. Like 50% more. This has never happened to me before. A little elfin magic? I have to wonder...

Finally, I have to mention my collection of driver's ed skits, You're Driving Me Crazy!, which, like Million Dollar Meatballs, continues to receive 20 or more productions a year in this, its ninth year. Even more amazing, this year the play got me my 24th country, with a production in Rzeszow, Poland. 

The big question

I've been racking my head lately, trying to figure out why my last four plays have done so well. In last year's wrap-up, I suggested that it may be because I've been concentrating more on single-set, contemporary plays. I'm sure that's helped, but it doesn't explain why my cat inheritance comedy, The Purrfect Crime, has never done super well.

Then I realized that all four plays came after my two-year hiatus from writing plays to try to break into novels and screenplays. How did that go? Not well.

But maybe I learned something in those two years. I spent so much of that time studying the Hero's Journey and learning to apply those lessons to my novels and screenplays that my plays may have benefited as well. I feel like they're stronger now. Tighter. More character-driven.

I know they have a lot more heart.

Anyway, I want to thank all of the schools and theater companies who performed my plays this year. I love you all!

And if you enjoyed my current plays, just wait. There's more great stuff right around the corner. Stay tuned!

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